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Galerie Barbara Thumm presents a new series of works by Martin Dammann
Installation view. Photo: Courtesy the artist and Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin.

BERLIN.- The exhibition weiter weg (some way off) presents a new series of works, which was exhibited at the Märkisches Museum in Witten from November 2014 until February 2015. Dammanns works were shown in juxtaposition to the museums collection of informal paintings.

Martin Dammann, who also is known for his video works, finds the source for his images in private and historical photographs. They depict either individuals or groups of people in various configurations. Memory images and their schematic visualization is a key theme within Dammanns oeuvre. The transcription of these photographs brings out the emotional undertone of the portrayed subjects, heightened by the artists intense choice of his water colour palette.

The title of the exhibition refers to the long process the image is subjected to on its way to be transformed into a painting. It also hints at the degree of abstraction, as well as at a development from a figurative representation towards an abstract surface. For his new works Martin Dammann developed a special technique to apply watercolour on hardboard. Puddles of paint run off the semi absorbent surface and create virtuoso visualization of dissolving memories.

Martin Dammann
some way off

In his search for “new ways of seeing”, Martin Dammann continues to hunt amongst images from the past, in the repository of forgotten albums, choosing photographs, not in order to rescue them, and what they originally signified, but, through his creative re-engagement with the form of the watercolour, to investigate the affective power of the images, and also to test our reaction to what is in the watercolours and was, perhaps, in the photographs as well.

These paintings, currently on display in the Galerie Barbara Thumm, may seem at first glance to be presenting trivial images, not loaded with the dramatic war resonances of Dammann’s earlier works. In these pieces, the tension emerges from the images themselves. On the surface these are beautiful, if strange pictures. The themes seen to be “familiar”, with titles such as Aunts , Bride or Town Park , but, thanks to the bold palette, you soon get the feeling that something uncanny lies in wait.

This is not least due to the pictures, whose themes do not let themselves be fully determined. Something similar can be observed in their form, for the way in which the paint reacts to the plastic-coated hardboard is radically different from the way it reacts to watercolour paper, leaving a residue of surface tension, somewhere between a decisive inconclusivity and unresolved figural disintegration.

Dammann’s use of hardboard is not only a conscious break with the paper tradition of watercolour (which has shaped Dammann’s work up to now). These boards were an integral part of the preparatory work for earlier paintings, as the watercolour paper was stretched out upon them. If you look closely, you can see the previous traces of use, which allude to the economy of a visible creative process, as do the retained pencil marks and scribbled titles of earlier works that were produced on these boards All this is also part of the image.

These images take us a long way, away from what we usually see and away from their origin (wherever that may be). The journey’s end remains uncertain, however.
---2015, Simon Ward

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